Two of Kenya's distance running finds of 2003, Eliud Kipchoge and Abraham Chebii demolished seasoned campaigners in the Kenyan nationals - IAAF Permit - meeting on a warm, cloudless morning at Ngong race course in the outskirts of the capital city, today.
Kipchoge, the World senior 5000m track gold medallist who is also the reigning World Junior Cross champion, won the long course race with a commanding burst of pace from last year's champion John C. Korir and 2002 World short course bronze medallist Wilberforce Talel.
In victory, Kipchoge equated the race as a "glimpse of hell", after he and some his fellow colleagues had worked together to burn-out Qatar's Saif Saaeed Shaheen, formerly Kenya's Stephen Cherono, who had been the leader at the 2000m before Boston marathon champion Robert Cheruiyot, who acting as the main pace setter, destroyed his game plan.
Shaheen had earlier said he was returning to his motherland to prepare for the World Cross before attempting to reclaim both long and short courses titles, won at the last two editions by Ethiopian sensation Kenenisa Bekele.
The World Steeplechase champion's intent was obvious from the beginning but he started fading after 6000 metres of the 12km race, before finally dropping out complaining of chest pains with just 2000m to go.
Kipchoge had built a 20 metres gap on the rest of the field at the bell and went on to win in 35:19, ahead of former champion John Korir (35:26).
"The race was like a glimpse of hell," said Kipchoge. "At one time I did not know whether I would pull this one off. As of now I cannot talk of Brussels nor whether I am capable of beating Bekele until we get there," said Kipchoge who beat Bekele and Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco in a sprint finish in the 5000m final at the Paris World Championships last year. "But I am happy because this was my first time in the 12km race and it thrills me that I emerged the winner."
Chebii takes short course victory
However, in the 4km short course race Abraham Chebii, who was another Kenyan sensation over 5000m last season, with victories over Bekele and Haile Gebrselassie on the European circuit, was forced to employ his famed finishing kick to fend off a tremendous effort by 2000 World short course champion John Kibowen. In the photo finish both were credited with 11:00.
This dramatic race also saw the next three athletes - Kiplimo Muneria, Bonface Songok and Isaac Songok finish together in one batch - in another photo finish.
Chebii confirmed that his aim is now to win the World Cross title in Brussels having finished last season without any crown.
Women's 8km win for Timbilil
In the women's long race, Alice Timbilil broke away early and built a 50 metre gap over the 1997 World 10,000m champion Sally Barsosio, who returned this year to competition after maternity leave. Veteran Jane Ngotho who first competed in the World Cross 17 years ago, came a meritable sixth surprising the 5000 spectators who attended the nationals. Ngotho, winner of the 5km Providence road race in Boston last October, clocked 27:30.
Timbilil posted 26:46, and Barsosio, 26:56, and Irene Kwambai was third in a time of 27:11.
Masai takes surprise loss
Beatrice Chepchumba was the surprise winner of the women's short course race in 12:42, having twice been beaten over the distance by Edith Masai, the double World Cross champion, who finished third today. Jane Gakunyi, third at last year's Worlds finished second in 12:45.
53 named for Brussels
Athletics Kenya named a provisional squad of 53 for the World Cross Country Championships in Brussels which goes into a residential training camp in Embu from Monday. It also appointed seven coaches, the biggest number ever, headed by the 1992 Barcelona Olympics 3000m steeplechase silver medallist Patrick Sang.
1. Eliud Kipchoge, North Rift, 35:19.0
2. John C. Korir, Armed Forces, 35:26.0
3. Wilberforce Talel, Armed Forces, 35:34.0
4. Richard Limo, North Rift, 35:39.0
5. Simon Kiprop, GP, 35;45.0
6. Charles Kamathi, Police, 35:52.0
7. Patrick Ivuti, Armed Forces, 35:55.0.
1. Abraham Chebii, North Rift, 11:00.0
2. John Kibowen, Armed Forces, 11:00.0
3. Kiplimo Muneria, Armed Forces, 11:01.0
4. Bonifce Songok, North Rift, 11:01.0
5. Isaac Songok, Armed Forces, 11:01.0
6. Moses Kigen, North Rift, 11:03.0
7. Eliud Kirui, North Rift, 11:03.0.
Junior men 8km
1. Barnabas Kosgei, North Rift, 23:23.0
2. Hosea Macharinyang, North Rift, 23:28.0
3. Ronald Kipchumba, North Rift, 23:43.0
4. Earnest Meli, Armed Forces, 23:47.0
5. Moses Masai, Western, 23:50.0
6. George Kirwa, Individual, 23:54.0
7. Kipkosgei Salil, North Rift, 23:58.0.
1. Alice Timbilil, North Rift, 26:46.0
2. Sally Barosio, Armed Forces, 26:56.0
3. Irene Kwambai, Armed Forces, 27:11.0
4. Evalyne Kimwei, Nairobi, 27:16.0
5. Eunice Jepkorir, South Rift, 27:18.0
6. Jane Ngotho, Armed Forces, 27:30.0
7. Monica Wangari, Central, 27:35.0.
1. Beatrice Jepchumba, North Rift, 12:42.0
2. Jane Gakunyi, Central, 12:45.0
3. Edith Masai, Prisons, 12:47.0
4. Peninah Jepchumba, North Rift, 12:53.0
5. Isabella Ochichi, Police, 12:57.0
6. Vivian Cheruiyot, North Rift, 13:01.0
7. Prisca Jepleting, Individual, 13:05.0.
Junior women 6km
1. Chemutai Rionotukel, North Rift, 20:02.0
2. Jebichi Yator, North Rift, 20:04.0
3. Pamela Lisoreng, Individual, 20:05.0
4. Emmy Chepkurui, South Rift, 20:06.0
5. Zeddy Cheboi, North Rift, 20:09.0
6. Jepkoech Koech, North Rift, 20:14.0
7. Nelly Jepkurui, Individual, 20:21.0.